Retrospective: Monster Magnet – Tab

With stoner rockers Monster Magnet releasing reissues of two of their early releases, namely debut album Spine Of God and the EP Tab, today is definitely a day to celebrate their back catalogue. Their debut album, Spine Of God has undoubtedly garnered more attention than Tab, and why shouldn’t it? A remarkable and well-received debut album of psyched-out stoner rock, it helped kick the band’s long and successful career off, with 1991 EP Tab only seeing a US release two years after its creation, and most likely only because Caroline Records saw an opportunity to take advantage of the band’s newly-found major-label status.

Whilst it’s great to see Tab receiving a reissue, letting it be overshadowed by its big brother would be a great shame. For those curious enough to delve into the band’s back catalogue, Tab proves itself the most ambitious release of their career, as well as their weirdest. It’s not hard to see why such a release was only put out by the label after the band proved a success. For one thing, the EP is, in fact, far from the Spine Of God’s little brother, managing to surpass it by more than five minutes yet retain its status as a four-track EP.

To this day, it is the most psychedelic release the band has ever created, giving few hints that the band would become hard rock giants in the coming years. It was a spaced-out odyssey of mind-blowing proportions. Their subsequent albums were more commercially viable affairs dominated by decidedly triumphant rock that saw them break into rock charts around the world, but Tab was an entirely different beast. Entirely original with a penchant for ignoring genre conventions, it was a drug-hazed romp that was equal parts Hawkwind, Black Sabbath and MC5. It set the stage for a band that would go on to conquer the stoner rock genre through a string of unstoppable albums, but few would have guessed as such before Spine Of God saw the light of day.

Most audaciously, Tab was led by a 32-minute, slow-moving title-track that wielded an effectively commercial edge through a steady groove, whilst also exuding an alien air of eeriness through warped and utterly trippy stonerisms. The track utilised strung-out solos, nonsensical wails, slurred spoken word and transcendental atmospherics to provide a uniquely distinct introduction to the EP, whilst ‘25/Longhair’ ensured the next twelve-and-a-half minutes were a livelier affair, driven by an intergalactic concoction of hallucinogenic noises and psychedelic guitars. Elsewhere, ‘Lord 13’ proved itself a more succinct affair as it surpassed the four-minute mark by merely nine seconds, but its catchy jangly guitars and slightly more conventional vocal style hints at the young band’s commercial potential. A live rendition of Spine Of God’s title-track is a nice addition to the new reissue – though it was originally found on the 2006 release, it rounds off the reissue with a rawer interpretation of the band’s psychedelic prowess.

When you see the Monster Magnet reissues on the HMV shelves this weekend, £9.99 for a nearly forgotten EP may seem a bit much, but consider that your money is better spent on four under-appreciated tracks that manage to fill 55 minutes of awe-inspiring sci-fi-infused rock. It may not always bring to mind the world-conquering anthems the band is undoubtedly more known for, but the band’s ambitious second EP was entirely more progressive and nuanced.

The Tab and Spine Of God reissues are out now on Napalm Records. 

Words: George Parr

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